From 2000–15 the world of international development focused on the millennium development goals and the ambition to address extreme poverty on a global scale.
In 2015 the deadline came and went with around one million people still living on less than $1.25 a day, more than 800 million living without enough food to eat, and women fighting for their rights. As a result the UN developed 17 sustainable development goals (SGDs), which focus more broadly on sustainability, equality, education and ending poverty.
With this in mind, what do the SDGs mean for the IOP’s capacity building work, and how do we as an organisation feed into the wider objectives? The most relevant goal for us is to “ensure inclusive and equitable education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all”.
There are several projects within the IOP’s international programme that fit into the concept of promoting education. The IOP for Africa project is one example. This project delivers practical physics teacher training in Ethiopia, Ghana, South Africa and Tanzania with a focus on simple experiments that can be transferred to the classroom. The SDG link comes from supporting teachers and teacher-trainers who transfer the knowledge gained to their students, continuing the cycle of learning in schools.
Our entrepreneurial workshops are another example. These focus on closing the gap for scientists and engineers who possess knowledge around their chosen subject but who don’t have the right skills to turn ideas or research into a commercial enterprise. The workshops include sessions on networking, the art of presentation, financial modelling, and the nuances of intellectual property. A number of sessions are tailored to relate to in-country situations. For example, a recent entrepreneurial workshop in Tanzania included sessions from government departments, incubators based in Dar es Salaam, and the local patent office.
In addition to promoting learning opportunities, we also make an effort to make the workshops inclusive and equal with the call for applications going out across host nations, with emphasis on getting an even split between male and female participants. On the last day of the workshops participants are tasked with presenting a business pitch to a panel of judges and often the ideas that come through in that exercise are heavily linked with other SDGs. For instance, during the workshop in Tanzania, participants presented concepts that aimed to develop inclusive education material, sustainable food products and sustainable housing. The concept of the workshops also encourages productive employment through the creation of businesses and by extension the creations of jobs – indeed, the concept of job-creation is constantly promoted during the workshops.
The IOP’s international programme also includes collaborating on the creation of a STEM centre of excellence in the Mtwara region of Tanzania. This is a partnership with the African Institute for Mathematical Sciences in Tanzania and several other national and international organisations. Again, it will promote the importance of education and create a place where STEM education can be supported in a sustainable way.
Overall, the IOP’s capacity-building programme fits well with the wider international development objectives of the SDGs. We’ll continue to work with our partners to expand our reach to develop sustainable programmes in a variety of low- and middle-income countries to help as many people as possible to benefit from the opportunities that science and technology can offer.